Dallas Youths Admit Setting Costly School Fire

Dallas Youths Admit Setting Costly School Fire

Dallas school fire shortly after fire fighters arrived.

Photo by Linwood J. Martin

Knocking down fire in school attic proved a smoky job for Dallas firemen.

Photo by Linwood J. Martin

Six teen-age youths were taken into custody by police of Dallas, Tex., on April 23, after evidence showed three of them responsible for starting a fire two days before which damaged the William B. Travis School to the extent of $125,000.

A 15-year-old ringleader of the boys admitted he set the blaze but later implicated the others.

The youth, an eighth grade student and player on the baseball team, whose name was withheld, planned with others to burn the school because, he said, the library teacher did not want him to sit with the other boys, but wanted him to sit by himself.

He sneaked out of his home and met two pals about 10 blocks from the school. Here they took some safety flares from a construction job. At another point they gathered some newspapers and then met three other youths at the school. The latter had also been tipped off to the plan to burn the building.

The 15-year-old said he and another boy broke a window and that three of them went inside. Two went upstairs. They carried flare pots and poured some kerosene from them onto the floor and onto some books piled on the floor. They then ignited the books with matches.

Much the same routine was followed downstairs; then the trio left by way of the window through which they had entered. Outside the school, said the boy, he lighted another flare and threw it in through a window on another side of the building. The boys then separated and went to their homes.

The fire was discovered about 4:40 a.m. on the 21st, when residents of nearby houses were awakened by breaking glass. By the time firemen reached the scene, the fire had reached major proportions. Three additional alarms were turned in, in rapid succession, bringing 17 pieces of fire apparatus and a large complement of firemen to the scene, under Fire Chief C. N. Penn.

Flames spread through the first and second floors in parts of the two-story red brick building, built about 1890.

The “under control” signal was sounded at 5:11 a.m., but the blaze reportedly flared to major proportions again at 6:00 a.m., necessitating recalling all forces that had been sent to quarters, and calling out the off-shift fire fighters. The second upsurge of the blaze involved the attic spaces and second floor. Fire lapped out of the second floor windows, endangering firemen on ladders from which they were operating streams into the blazing interior.

Fire Investigator L. W. Moore, who got into the building during the “under control” period, said the fire was definitely arson. From then on the search for the culprits was accelerated.

During the fire, although intense heat was generated on the first and second floors, a refrigerator in the building basement safely guarded four large boxes of polio vaccine.

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